Otherwise known as the Magnolia State, Mississippi is one of the southern states in the US and a big part of the idea of “southern hospitality”.
This wonderful region has a lot of hidden qualities that might surprise you. More than half of the state’s area is covered with trees, wild and cultivated, making it quite the natural paradise. Local neighbors, like Georgia Colony, also have some unique facts you may not know.
With so much of the state “hidden away”, you can bet your bottom dollar there are plenty of cool or interesting facts you might not know about Mississippi! We have collected all the weird, wacky, and downright cool things you never knew about the Hospitality State.
39 Interesting Facts about Mississippi
Surprise (or perhaps not): the state gets its name from the Mississippi River that forms the majority of its western boundary. The river empties its vast torrents into the Gulf of Mexico. The origin of the name comes from the Ojibwe word misi-ziibi, which means “Great River”.
All the way back in 1699, French settlers established the first permanent settlement in what would become Mississippi. By doing so, they entered lands previously home to the Natchez, the Choctaw, and the Chickasaw.
On a yearly basis, Mississippi can be devastated by around 27 tornadoes. “Fun” fact: two of the top five deadliest twisters happened right here, yikes! These destructive tunnels of terror have plagued many over the years and sparked a generation’s worth of movies and fictional works.
Specifically, the city of Vicksburg in western Mississippi has a high rating of UFO sitings and enthusiasts. People from all over flock here for the chance to see strange sightings of little green men. Watch out Roswell, there is some new competition on the block.
Born and raised in Jackson, Eudora is the author of novels like “the Optimist’s Daughter” and “Losing Battles”. She won a Pulitzer Prize in 1973, one of many accolades and honors bestowed on her throughout the years.
Many of her works focused on human connection, emotions, and how we interact with each other and our surroundings.
That’s right, famous talk-show host, actress, and philanthropist Oprah Winfrey was born right here, in Kosciusko, Mississippi. Back then, it was a rural area and quite poor, but has since risen from the ashes, much like Winfrey.
It is the lowest of all states and, according to history, has been known to be low. This is partly due to Mississippi’s status as the poorest state, with families struggling. Hawaii is known as the state with the highest life expectancy.
The very well-known children’s book, Alice in Wonderland, was inspired by a real girl, Alice Liddel. She lived in Oxford, MS, with her father Dean. A friend of her father, Charles Dodgson (also known as Lewis Carrol) spent quite a bit of time with Alice and her family.
From 1856, since she was four years old, was Charles a close friend and regular companion in their home. . Later on, in 1865, he decided to name the leading character of his novel after her.
The very first human lung transplant was done at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, in the capital of Jackson. It was performed by Dr. James Hardy, but the patient only survived for 18 days afterward.
He also performed the world’s first animal-to-human heart transplant. The ticker was taken from a chimpanzee and transplanted into a comatose Boyd Rush. He “lived” for just over an hour before dying, although he never gained consciousness.
Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield, also known as “Black Swan”, was a singer of Classical music. She was from the town of Natchez, MS, and went on to appear as the first black singer in a concert during a performance in Buffalo, New York. One of the local reporters gave her the name “Black Swan”.
They were so impressed with her that she became known as the best concert singer of her time. The nickname of Black Swan stayed with her until her deathbed.
Famous pop singer and icon of the 1990s and 2000s, Britney Jean Spears was born in McComb, Mississippi. She started with dancing lessons as young as age three and has never looked back.
Mississippi is home to NASA’s biggest rocket engine testing facility. Known as the John C. Stennis Space Center (SSC), this fascinating center is located in Hancock County, on the banks of the Pearl River. It is on the border between MS and Louisiana.
What is known today as one of the world’s most famous carbonated drinks, Barq’s Root Beer was originally made in Biloxi, MS. It started in a small house in town, by Edward Barq Sr. His company, Biloxi Artisan Bottle Works, was later bought up by Coca-Cola.
The soulful music that is Blues was born in the Mississippi Delta, around the turn of the 19th century. Its origins actually date back to the slaves that hailed from many African countries. They used music as a means to escape their current situations, expressing and communicating their feelings.
Counting over 1.75 million strong, the White-Tailed Deer population in Mississippi is the second highest density in the US. Only Texas has a higher population of deer but added altogether, the total number of deer in the US goes well over 30 million.
On a hunt in 1902, President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt famously refused to injure or kill a bear cub that was trapped. The poor creature was chained to a tree, and through this act of mercy, Teddy inspired a whole new creation: the Teddy Bear. This concept soon sparked a fever for the cuddly bundles of fur we know today.
In the small town of Tupelo, on the 8th of January 1935, the King of Rock and Roll was born. He was a significant cultural and national icon during the 20th century, and his legacy is still honored and celebrated today.
Known as the Marijuana Research Project, this is the only government-funded project allocated to the cannabis plant, its growth, and the plant’s effects. All of this is based at the University of Mississippi. Even in recent times, the National Institute for Health has set aside funding for the center’s research.
Mississippi has more churches per capita than any other state in the US. In fact, Mississippians are even more likely to attend or visit church than residents in other states, making these buildings all the more prominent in society.
The law was actually passed back in 1995, overturning this outrageous practice thanks to the 13th Amendment. But due to a clerical error, the actual paperwork was only filed with the US Archivist in 2013. It turns out the papers were never sent, although the law was still enforced.
While unfortunate, MS is known as the poorest state, because it has the lowest average income in all 50 states. But, while the state is “poor” in that regard, it still has some of the friendliest and most welcoming folks around.
Or rather, his creator, legendary puppeteer Jim Henson, was born here in Greenville. There is a museum in the town, the Birthplace of Kermit the Frog, in honor of Jim. He created not only Kermit but also the Muppets, forever changing the face of puppeteering.
Also known as “Decoration Day”, this iconic holiday was started by a collection of women, as they decorated the graves of Union and Confederate Soldiers. This sparked the idea to celebrate the day in honor of all who lost their lives while serving in the armed forces.
In the town of Ridgeland, Mississippi, we can find the most bizarre of cell phone towers. The quaint structure is shaped like the Washington Monument: an obelisk of white marble, tapered off to a pyramid at the top. It even has little windows on top!
Located in Edwards, MS, this plantation has garnered quite a fascinating status as the only one of its kind in the world. The owner (John) has since closed the plantation down, as it has run for many years and started to become difficult for him to manage in his old age. He even supplied to the megastore Walmart, as well as local grocery stores.
The ever-popular cleaning and deodorizing product, Pine-Sol, was created by the chemist Harry A. Cole. He lived in the capital of Jackson. His inspiration? He lived in a pine forest, of course!
Coined as the Phantom Barber at the time, there was a mystery in the town of Pascagoula: someone was breaking into homes to steal locks of hair! It was a strange sequence of events, but eventually, a man named William Dolan was caught.
He was charged with (attempted) murder and served over six years in jail before he passed a lie detector test and was released.
It was established all the way back in 1884 and is known as the Mississippi University for Women. It is located in Columbus and actually does welcome men into the university as well. It was a monumental event for the time, as the women’s rights movement would only happen some 80 years later.
In 1900, schoolchildren were allowed to vote for their favorite state flower. Some of the popular choices were, of course, the Magnolia, Cape Jasmine, and Yellow Jasmine. This choice was not made official by the legislature.
They allowed the children to vote again in 1935, this time for the state tree. In a surprising turn of events, the Magnolia won again, and it was implemented. The flower was finally inducted as the official state flower in 1952, having already served several years as the state tree.
To be precise, over 750 Civil War battles took place within the boundaries of MS. In fact, it was so severe, that the capital of Jackson was burned down a total of three times while these battles were raging.
Along with about 21 other states, the official beverage of Mississippi is none other than calcium-rich milk. It is the most popular choice of beverage and was decided in 1984. Some of the other states that chose milk as their beverage include:
- New York
The capital of MS, Jackson, actually borrowed its name from General Andrew Jackson. He was honored for his role in the fierce Battle of New Orleans. He later went on to become the 7th president of the United States, forever leaving behind an American legacy.
Falling to second place behind the vast Missouri River, the Mississippi is 3 778km long. Interestingly, the Missouri River flows into the Mississippi in the state of St. Louis, joining forces, so to speak. Regardless, these two monstrous bodies of water are among some of the largest in the world.
Over a period of 68 days, marathon swimmer, Martin Strel, tackled the entire length of the marvelous Mississippi River. The 48-year-old took this 2 414 mile swim in stride, marking this momentous occasion in 2002.
He is well-known in the elite endurance athletes world. Martin holds multiple Guinness World Records for similar feats, like swimming the Danube, Yangtze, and Amazon rivers.
While there are many super interesting facts about dolphins, did you know they were chosen as the official water mammal for Mississippi? The year was 1974, and these marvelous mammals have always been in the crosshairs of endangerment. This was done, partially, in an attempt to bring awareness to these beautiful creatures.
With over 800 cotton farms in the state, Mississippi produces just over 1.4 million bales of textile per year. The town of Greenwood is known as the Cotton Capital of the World. Mississippi’s cotton industry has recently been valued at over $550 million, and was once known as the “Cotton Belt”.
Only four cities in the world have this prestigious honor, the others being Helsinki, Moscow, and Varna. The competition was started in 1978 by the non-profit corporation Mississippi Ballet Inernational, Inc. (MBI).
In the town of Vicksburg, the Biedenham Candy Company made history by bottling the very first Coca-Cola beverages. It was in 1894, and the bottles looked much different than what we know and love today.
At this point, the soft drink had already been available for over 30 years as a fountain drink, before Joseph A. Biedenharn decided to bottle it in Hutchinson bottles.
While Mr. Twain was well known for his eccentricities, his brilliance in writing is still very relevant in modern times. It was said that he had a “literary love affair” with the magnificent Mississippi, as he often wrote about it in his various works.
One of the most well-known of his publishings that detail or center around the river and the areas along its path, is the story of Huckleberry Finn. Better known as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, this quaint coming-of-age story was first published in 1884 in the United Kingdom.
Written and composed within one hour, this powerful piece by Nina Simone was a lyrical response to the extreme violence and prejudice against Blacks in the South. It was inspired by the murder of Medgar Evers, in the capital of Jackson, in 1963, as well as the destructive bombing of a church in Birmingham.
So there we have it, lots of fascinating, funky, and downright funny facts about Mississippi. How many of these did you know before today? The Hospitality State has hidden many unique or interesting things over the years and we are sure there are also a lot more to be uncovered.
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